Napa Valley Dirt Classic
Sunday, April 6, 2014
“22 mile circuit, hilly, smooth to medium-rough trails, service roads, double track and single track, lots of trees.... fun course”
70s and perfect!
A lot of TMB guys were out there with me
* Personal - sub 2 hour finish, podium (i.e. win)
Be aggressive early, stay with whoever is in the lead, stay smooth- no crying and no crashing, be confident descending
I was told this is one of the best races in northern California so I was really excited to do it. Having not pre-ridden the course or even looked at the route, I knew I was going into it blind. All I knew was that there was a giant and steep climb at the end. The start was chaotic, as most mountain bike race starts are, and I didn’t feel like I was able to get a proper warm-up in because I was so scared of missing the start. When we finally lined up, I positioned myself next to Laura O’Meara. I knew she was going to be my toughest competition. The race starts with a paved climb and then turns on to singletrack. So I made my race strategy- go out strong, get on Laura’s wheel and don’t let a gap open. It’s always nice when strategies work out. She got the hole-shot and I sucked her wheel. After a about a mile or so, the singletrack opened to firetrail. I told Laura we could work together to ensure a gap opened from the field behind us. She agreed and we started railing it and putting in a lot of time between us and the people behind us. There was a lot of mud on the course, and I kept thinking about how my pretty white Capo kit was going to be real muddy after the race!
Around mile 9 we hit this amazing singletrack section. Super flowy and fun (but lots of poison oak and I will definitely be breaking out in a rash come Wednesday) and we were having a blast working our way through it and catching the back of the Expert Cat 1 men. At this same time, the faster Cat 2 men were catching us. ( This is the one thing about mountain bike racing that I’ll never get use to. The Cat 2 men caught us and started yelling “leading cat 2, leading cat 2” and trying to get around. I’m fine letting people pass but it has to be a safe spot and one where it won’t mess up my race either. Well of course, there’s always a few bad apples who are just rude. We’re the leading 2 pro women and getting heckled by guys to “get out of their way because we’re too slow”.) So now we were in a pack and I think it messed with both of us (plus we were about an hour in and starting to get tired. Laura crashed around a switch-back and I took over the lead. I kept looking back waiting for her to catch me and she wasn’t. I hit a fire trail and knew I just had to start moving to put some distance in between her and me. The more people I passed the better.
I hit another single track section and another group of guys. This was a blessing and a curse. Racing with guys is always a challenge because a lot are reluctant to let a girl pass. But, a Mike’s Bikes masters rider showed up, and it was a huge confidence booster. John (I later found out his name), was super positive and started pushing me to move up. He said I had a minute gap on Laura and to hit the next technical downhill fast and stay with him. It was an incredible little boost and got my legs going. He started clearing the course for me to-- telling all the guys ahead I was the leading Pro Women and to let me pass! So I started gaining time.
We hit the beginning of the final climb (a 20 minute super steep climb) and I slid out just enough to have to walk a small section. I got back on my bike and told myself I could do this and riding was way faster than biking. I just wanted to catch back up to the Mike’s Bikes guy. My cadence was probably 5 rpm but I was riding and passing guys. I knew as long as I kept it up, I could win. I had one tiny slip-up where I put my foot down in the mud, but When I hit the top of the climb and started heading back towards the finish, I knew I had it.
Staying smooth is faster than crashing
Teammates (even guys racing in different categories) are awesome!